Cubs’ winning is something to believe in, if you can forget the losing

SHARE Cubs’ winning is something to believe in, if you can forget the losing

What is it that makes a person so reluctant to throw in with the Cubs?

Even with these Cubs, with their 21-15 record, in second place in the National League Central behind the major-league-best St.  Louis Cardinals, with a six-game winning streak and young players hitting the ball all over the place?

Could it be 1908 and the 107 years since?

Sort of. But not really.

I wasn’t alive for almost half of those years, and unless you’re a total geezer, you weren’t, either. You can start suffering the day you’re born, but pre-existence suffering, no.

I wasn’t alive in 1935, either, when the Cubs had the best record in the majors, 100-54, and lost in the first round of the playoffs (also known as the World Series) to the Tigers, four games to two.

In 1945, the Cubs again were in the World Series (and I still wasn’t alive; nor, likely, were you). And when they lost to the Tigers once more, despite having the best regular-season record in the majors, I felt not a twinge of pre-conception sadness.

Now, you get to 1969, and, yes, indeed, I remember that horrendous fold to the Mets. That one rocked my Cubs boat. How can you be ahead by eight games in August and do . . . that?

There was 1984 and 1989 and 1998 — teasing flops all. And then there was 2003 — five outs away, my friend. Five outs. Moises Alou, Mark Prior, etc.

You remember that. None of us really believes in curses, but . . . . Then the failures of 2007 and 2008 turned a good man, Lou Piniella, into a loony rolling a ball of string down the road.

So that’s why it’s hard to just go all-in with these new Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon Cubs.

On Friday, the Cubs beat the Pirates 11-10 in 12 innings when Matt Szczur hit a weak fly to right field and Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco caught his cleats somehow, tripped and fell down, letting the ball fall harmlessly to the bright green grass.

It was shocking. No analyst recalled seeing anything so stupid or inexplicable to end an extra-inning game. It was 100 percent Cub-like. But the Cubs didn’t do it.

Which is frightening. Disorienting.

After finishing fifth in the division for five straight years, blatantly tanking for the last three, and claiming they’re still not fully competing (that might happen next year or in 2017, says president Epstein), the Cubs are winning in ways we haven’t seen since, well, yes, since whenever they tease us with greatness.

How many times can a lover have his or her heart broken before he/she says enough; I am a rock; you’ll never break this heart of stone?

Yet first baseman Anthony Rizzo (eight home runs, eight doubles, .349 batting average) is playing like a constant All-Star. And he’s only 25.

Shortstop Starlin Castro, also 25, already has 886 hits in his career, putting him on pace not to be just an All-Star but a Hall of Famer.

New guys Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler and rookie Addison Russell are playing well, with Russell showing glimpses of the team leadership Cubs management hopes for.

Then there’s third baseman Kris Bryant, who is ridiculous. We all knew this guy was a prospect and needed to be in the majors, pronto. But now that he is out of his rookie call-up funk, he is hitting the leather off the ball, with four home runs in the last six days and a team-leading 24 RBI. His eye at the plate is so good and pitchers are so reluctant to throw him anything in the zone that he has walked a team-high 24 times while having played eight fewer games than the other starters.

Bryant is only 23, and you want to believe in him so badly it hurts. At 6-5 and youthfully slender, he looks like the framework for a modern-day right-handed Ted Williams.

But that’s just dreaming.

Or is it?

With this Cubs franchise — now with new bleacher seats and a Jumbotron, ta-da! — you don’t know what to think, what to believe in. The young players — and we haven’t even mentioned the fairly decent pitching staff — don’t know 1969 from 1869, or 2003 from last week.

But if this winning continues, and the Cubs get, say, a wild-card berth in the playoffs, talk of goats and black cats and history will rise up. That’s how it goes.

Will faith be rewarded?

Tread carefully, my friends.


Twitter: @ricktelander

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